As a people, Americans have a peculiar fascination with work. Ask folks in other cultures what they "do," and they may tell you, "I paint." Or, "I carve." Or, "I spend time with my kids." Or, "I whistle."
Americans ask, "You do this for a living?"
And the answer baffles us: "No. I do this for a life."
Clearly, we all have animal needs: for air, for food, for shelter. We all have human needs: for human contact, for growth of mind and spirit, for productivity. For joy.
I was born and raised in the north. So I talk, and mostly think, northern. Both my parents, though, come from the south. So my family has both types.
Of particular fascination to me is the Southern Woman. By turns brilliant and bitter, demure and demonic, she bewitches and bewilders. I've seen southern women transform from a ruthless roomful of incisive social critics to a bevy of giggling belles, and in just the instant it takes for a man to walk through the door.
A couple of weeks ago, we asked everybody coming in to the library to fill out a brief survey.
We tested all library hours - morning, afternoon, evening, and weekend. To our great pleasure, we got over 700 responses in just a few days. In the jargon of data gathering, this is enough to be statistically significant, truly representative of the people we serve.
There's something called the Fog Index. It's a simple calculation, applied to text, that tells you how complicated your writing is. In brief, when a sentence runs longer than 20 words, you start to lose people.
Back in October, the library's Board of Trustees held a long range planning retreat. One of their outcomes was a new library mission statement.